The Azores is the perfect destination to visit this winter. The Azores is not so popular for the masses, being less crowded, so ideal for people who seek an authentic holiday experience.
Flights to the islands are very accessible and normally relatively cheap. There are direct flights from major cities in Europe and the US, or you might need to stopover in Lisbon. Tourists from all over the world visit this hidden gem.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, the islands are accessible by plane or cruises. Flights from the United States, more precisely Boston, Massachusetts, take only around 5 hours. While flights from Lisbon airport, a short 2 and a half hours.
The Azores only have 2 islands with international flights, Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) and Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira). To travel between islands, there are inter-island flights (SATA group) and ferries that connect all islands.
The Azores islands are composed out of a group of nine islands:
- The Eastern islands – São Miguel and Santa Maria;
- The Central islands – Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico & Failal;
- The Western islands – Flores & Corvo.
The summer months, between June and September, are considered high-season as many European travellers visit the island. While Winter and Spring are becoming trendy among American tourists.
For us, like most nature lovers, winter is the best time of the year to visit the islands. Here we will share our 10 reasons to visit the Azores this winter or spring.
1. The weather
The temperature is mild almost all year round. The weather is temperate due to being an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. This means it’s never extremely cold.
Although the weather can be quite unpredictable, on one day it can be sunny and raining on the same day. You may even experience differences between which side of the island you are located. During the day time, especially in the winter, it can be very misty and breezy. In fact, we wouldn’t recommend the Azores in winter if you want to go for a beach holiday. If you want to go to the beach, try booking your holiday for the summer months. But even then, you might find better beaches in Portugal mainland.
Regarding temperatures, on average, the temperatures in summer can go up to 30ºC ( 86ºF) and in winter can drop to 7ºC (45ºF).
If you would like to go for some nature exploring, winter is the time to go. The islands are way less crowded, and the temperature is ideal for walking, running or simply discovering the islands.
2. Many things to do
The islands are beautiful, so just travelling around one of the islands is a true pleasure for nature lovers. The old villages, the churches, forts, palaces, the volcanic beaches, amazing lakes, and beautiful sight views over the coastline.
Around the islands, you can find vineyards, pineapple and tea plantations, which you can visit.
To explore the islands, we would recommend renting a car or booking an adventurous jeep tour around the island. Most tours and activities are open all year round.
3. Sea experiences
The Azores are known for being a passing point for more than 28 different cetaceans. The privilege of seeing whales and dolphins living in their natural habitat is amazing. This is definitely one of those experiences you can’t miss!
For those who like fishing and would like to enjoy an authentic experience, the most popular fishing tours depart from Ponta Delgada, Vila Franca do Campo (both on São Miguel) and Pico Island. The fishing tours can be done in private or joining an already booked tour in a small group. The tours vary between bottom fishing, shark fishing, jigging and Big Game fishing.
Swimming with dolphins is one of the activities that actually closes for winter. It’s one of the most popular things to do, these tours normally are available from April until October.
The volcanic origins of this Portuguese archipelago created an amazing set of hot springs and natural pools. In fact, for many the Azores, is considered a thermal bath paradise.
Taking a dip at one of the many hot springs is a unique way to enjoy some relaxation. The water of the thermal springs is orange/brown colour, this is because of the high content of iron present. The water temperature reaches between 35º and 40ºC.
Furnas, Parish located on São Miguel, is the place to go. There you can find the best thermal baths. The village is surrounded by impressive vegetation, rivers, mountains and valleys.
At the Terra Nostra garden, you can find impressive centennial trees, botanical gardens, many flowers and a thermal pool. This park is open from 10 A.M to 18 P.M.
Some other hot springs to visit are Poça da Dona Beija, Caldeira Velha, Termas da Caldeira da Ribeira Grande, Ponta da Ferraria, Termas do Carapacho.
When the weather turns, and it’s rainy. It’s actually very nice to be at a thermal bath. Thus ideal in winter months. To make this experience unforgettable, bring dark or old bathing suits. The orange iron waters can stain light fabrics and even hair, so we recommend immediately after the bath rinse your clothes and hair.
We don’t recommend the use of jewellery, and advice to tie the hair up, during your visit at the thermal baths. For pregnant ladies, don’t forget to consult your doctor before.
5. Nice places to stay
At the Azores islands, you can find very nice places to stay. From boutique hotels, family-friendly hotels and even Airbnb apartment with view over the sea. In general, accommodation is not too expensive and definitely worth the value.
When we went to São Miguel, we rented a small apartment with terrace and kitchen. The apartment had 2 rooms, ideal to go on holiday with friends and family.
The cuisine at every island of the Azores is fresh and authentic. One of the most popular local dishes is a stew made at a hot spring, it’s called Cozido das Furnas. The Cozido das Furnas is a stew made out of local vegetables and meat, it’s very tasty and eating it, is a cultural experience itself.
For seafood lovers, you should not miss out on the flavorful octopus. In fact, Pico is our recommended island. If you enjoy eating fish, on this island you can eat fish in almost all restaurants. The islands are also a true paradise for fruit lovers.
7. Many islands to explore
When we went to São Miguel for a week, it was the ideal time. We had some days to explore São Miguel and some days to relax. If you come on holiday only for a week, we would recommend visiting just one island. There are so many beautiful places to explore on each island of the Portuguese archipelago.
Terceira is loved by nature and architecture lovers. While São Miguel is adored by the people who seek the thermal baths. If hiking is your sport, don’t miss out and travel to Pico.
To go to another island than São Miguel, you can fly directly to Terceira (Angra do Heroísmo). But if you would like to visit the other islands, you should have a look at the farries and regional flights.
8. The perfect off-season destination
In winter, it can be a bit colder, but this is definitely one destination for off-season seekers. Nature and culture will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the feeling of being on holiday like a local.
During winter, the islands are much less crowded and ideal for some time for yourself.
9. Clean and safe destination
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Portuguese government has been applying all necessary public health measures. While the state of emergency is in force, to enter the Azores it’s mandatory to do a Covid-19 test.
Tourists who intend to travel to the Azores by air, and who come from, zones of active community transmission or with active transmission chains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are required to present, within 72 hours prior to departure, a proof in digital or paper support, of a negative result for the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test. Children under 12 years and not required to do this test.
Portugal has been very actively promoting Clean and Safe experiences. The “Clean & Safe” seal aims to inform people about which companies that comply with the recommendations of the General health organization to avoid contamination of spaces with the new coronavirus.
During your next holidays in the Azores, we recommend social distancing, frequent washing of the hands and the use of masks in public places where social distance can’t be applied.
If you plan to visit the islands, 72 hours before departure you will have to fill in a survey of the Regional Health Authority. This will make your entry in the Azores much easier.
10. We love the Azores
The Azores are always on our bucket lists. SeaBookings’ team, so far, has visited 4 islands of the Portuguese archipelago, but surely want to discover all 9.
The combination of the previous reasons makes us love this place. And for sure a great destination for ocean lovers as we are!